A Statement from Xcel Energy regarding the progress to recover and treat water leaked at the Monticello Nuclear Plant:
MINNEAPOLIS (March 16, 2023) – Xcel Energy today reported on steps taken to contain and manage a water leak detected by routine groundwater monitoring systems at its Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant late last year. Xcel Energy took swift action to contain the leak to the plant site, which poses no health and safety risk to the local community or the environment.
Xcel Energy notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as well as the state on Nov. 22, 2022, the day the leak was confirmed. The company has since coordinated regularly with state and federal regulators, as well as local officials. The company has been pumping, storing, treating and reusing the leaked water, which contains levels of tritium that are below the NRC safety thresholds. Tritium is a compound that is naturally present in the environment and is commonly created in the operation of nuclear power plants. It emits low levels of radiation, similar to everyday materials people use and the food we all eat.
Ongoing monitoring from over two dozen on-site monitoring wells confirms that the leaked water is fully contained on-site and has not been detected beyond the facility or in any local drinking water. State agencies continue to monitor Xcel Energy’s remediation work to ensure the continued safety of the local community and surrounding environment.
“We have taken comprehensive measures to address this situation on-site at the plant. While this leak does not pose a risk to the public or the environment, we take this very seriously and are working to safely address the situation,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy–Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “We continue to gather and treat all potentially affected water while regularly monitoring nearby groundwater sources. We will continue to partner with local groundwater specialists, and we remain in close cooperation with the MPCA, along with other state and federal regulators and our local community throughout the remediation effort.”
The radiation levels in the leaked water are so low that, even if the water were to reach a drinking water source, it would be as safe for a person to drink as the food they eat on an average day. To date, Xcel Energy has recovered about 25% of the tritium released and will work to recover the rest over the course of the next year.
Xcel Energy identified the source of the leak as a water pipe running between two buildings. To contain the leak, the facility is diverting the water to an in-plant water treatment system, preventing additional water from leaving the plant, and will install a permanent solution in the spring of 2023. A thorough inspection was conducted of all piping in all locations where a leak could occur, to verify that no other area of the facility was facing this issue. The company will also be examining the one pipe that did leak in a laboratory to better understand why this happened. These findings will help Xcel Energy ensure it does not encounter the same issue moving forward.
The company has constructed new monitoring and recovery wells and has increased the frequency of measurements from its network of over two-dozen groundwater monitoring wells to enhance its monitoring and recovery efforts. Large storage tanks are also likely to be constructed on-site to store recovered water until it can be treated and reused.
The nuclear industry initiated an advanced groundwater monitoring program in 2007, which the Monticello plant has implemented, and industry experience with the successful containment and treatment of this substance has helped inform steps that have been taken at the plant.
Media availability: Interviews are available with Xcel Energy as well as with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and other state agencies.